Knowle Village's local as it looked when I arrived in the area eight years ago. It had two pub signs: 'Britannia Inn' on the wall and 'The Dog and Donkey' on the car park
The old 'Britannia Inn' sign: still there... but maybe not for long
The Britannia Inn, we’re told in Fairlynch Museum’s local history records, was the oldest institution in Knowle. It was older than the Village Hall and older by at least 20 years than the former church of St John which stood on Dalditch Lane, and which is listed as being built in 1893. The church was converted into a private residence in around 2013.
The photo was taken when William Bastin was innkeeper at The Britannia between 1901 and 1906. The car bears the name Tozer of Otterton. A copy of this photo, lent by Jack Gooding, is in Fairlynch Museum archives
After Samuel Knowles, the name of Henry Fulls appeared in the 1883 directory. This was followed by John Sanders in 1889, and William Bastin in the 1901 and 1906 directories.
How The Britannia used to look: from a picture lent by Mr Grimshaw to Fairlynch Museum
The most obvious change to the pub in the post-WW1 era was not the name but the appearance of the new building which arose in 1926, replacing the traditional cob and thatch building. In common with many houses and particularly pubs of the 1920s and 30s the new style Britannia had Mock Tudor elements, including leadlight casement windows in diamond panes at the front. Is there also perhaps an Alpine influence? ‘A bizarrely nice exterior’, reads one recent comment on an online pub appreciation site. ‘It looks like an Austrian cottage - with its gables and flowers - it just needs the Von Trapp family singers!’
Image courtesy Jack Gooding, from a photo at Fairlynch Museum
According to the Journal report of 2 October 1987, on Charlie Doney’s death in 1959, Florrie took over the licence. The pub, according to this postcard of 1962, was known as The Britannia Hotel.
An undated report in Fairlynch Museum’s local history records, probably published in 1997, carries this uncredited photo of Caroline and her husband Kenneth. It described how the pub had been completely refurbished, with ‘a spacious new light and airy function room, complete with self-contained bar, modern skittle alleys, pool table, darts and ample seating’. The report concluded: ‘The former tap room has been converted into a snug, cosy room and the 1920s lounge has been restored to its former glory’.
Three years later, the August 2000 edition of the Budleigh Journal carried the news that the Britannia’s new owners, Yvonne Patterson and Ian MacFarlane had decided to change the pub’s name from The Britannia to The Dog and Donkey.
In 2006 ex-Marine Richard Steer and his wife Bea, pictured here, took over the pub after moving from Surrey. They established it as a reliable eating-place offering, as they said ‘fresh and top quality unpretentious food, beautifully cooked with great attention to detail’, using local ingredients wherever possible.
Jeff White with partner Kate and her daughter Aisha
The Dog and Donkey remained sadly empty for months until Jeff White and his partner Kate Knight took it over in 2012, having persuaded Enterprise Inns to splash out on a refit. Retired Royal Artillery Major Jeff had previously run a pub on Exmoor. Keen to rebrand The Dog and Donkey, he decided to go back to its original name having consulted Fairlynch Museum’s archives.
This new pub sign for The Britannia was chosen by Jeff White
‘The pub started off as The Britannia back in Victorian times so we thought it was only right to respect its heritage and discover a bit more of its past’, he said. He was looking forward to restoring the Britannia as Knowle's local while providing restaurant meals that were quite a bit more ambitious than the average pub's.
The Knowle pub will be run by manager Fred Boodoo, who like Nick, knows the area well. Originally from the Seychelles, he has lived in Budleigh for 12 years and also worked at one time at The Feathers.
The new pub sign, based on this picture which hangs above the fireplace, ignores the issue of whether it was Charlie or Florrie Doney who drove that donkey cart back in the early days.
I look forward to seeing the new sign installed. It may have an element of fantasy about it, but it marks a fresh start for a well known landmark in the village and I’m all for an imaginative approach to an enterprise. Maybe the dog should be playing the ukulele rather than smoking that pipe.